Formed in 1994 when the concept of a band mixing black metal and folk was still something of an anathema, Vintersorg (Winter Sorrow) are a Swedish band hailing from Skelleftea. Progressive and open minded, the band have always been challenging to pigeonhole and Mr V, the band’s enigmatic driving force, has maintained his original vision of challenging the limits of extreme music. Despite frequent fan requests, the band steadfastly eschewed the notion of making a follow up to ‘Till Fjalls’, preferring to tread their own, increasingly diverse and progressive path. However, as the band, and Mr V. in particular, started to find themselves increasingly drawn to the dark, folk-infused world of ‘Till Fjalls’ once more, so it became a logical step to record a follow up to that album. Entitled ‘Till Fjalls Dell II’ it comes packaged with a four-track EP of songs written at the time of the band’s formation and it serves as a reminder of the remarkable, elemental power of Vintersorg’s prowess and power. We recently reached out to MR V, who was happy to discuss the formation of the band and the path to ‘Till Fjalls dell II’.
When you started the band, your intention to mix folk and black metal was pretty much against the grain, did you encounter resistance to the idea at first?
Mr V: I guess some people thought what I was doing was crazy and bizarre, but I just followed my heart and didn’t really care that much of what others thought.I wrote and recorded the music for my own well being and was very pleased with what I came up with. From my perspective that’s artistry, you go by your own drive and don’t scan the market or calculate every not in the smallest detail.
You work simply with Mattias on the records, is there not a temptation to involve other musicians, or do you feel that your working relationship is too important to sacrifice to the compromise of involving others?
Mr V: We now have a bass player permanently in the bans called Simon. We’ve known him for a long time and he’s recorded with us before. We came to the conclusion that we would ask him for every album and therefore we instead invited him into the band. Mattias and I have known each other since childhood and have a mutual understanding of the music that we do.We have this formula that works really well, I write the songs and then Mattias and now also Simon can come up with ideas while we record them.
You are not just the composer, you also mix and master your work – it’s quite rare I think to have that level of control over every aspect of your work – is there ever a time when you consider handing some elements out to others or is it too important to you that your art remains unadorned by an external force?
Mr V: For me it’s crucial to have control of the whole process until the day we deliver the master. I work on the songs and the arrangements all the time and many times after I’ve done the Mastering I go back and change some small things and have to do another Master and so on. So, if I had to leave the songs to someone else I guess it would have been a very tricky process with working back and forth with the production. As for now I can feel calm and just focus on the material and the production until I feel it’s right and carry the mark I want it to.
There’s a very organic feel to your music – is there ever a challenge to developing the material, or do you find that the songs you have to work at are the songs that, ultimately, might not be worth recording as compared to those that just flow naturally?
Mr V: I don’t write a lot of songs and then just pick out the ones that I feel is the most proper, instead I write the songs that comes out of my mind and then work on them until I feel they’re representing my vision. I don’t ponder that much on what comes out of my mind, music is for me passion and inspiration. So, therefore I try not to think that much on what comes out when writing and then I go back later on arranging and re-arranging the material.
Your music is very layered and detailed – is there a point in the studio where you think “enough! This is going to be a nightmare to mix!”?
Mr V: Well, there’s a point when I feel satisfied but that also comes out of an emotional basis. It often ends up with many layers and a lot of details that goes on simultaneously. The mixing process is a very long process as I tend to add more stuff until the last day in the studio, but that’s a very fun adventure as the songs kinda transform within that process until what you’ll hear on the album. Other times they stay quite the same throughout the process, the music I write is in a way its own entity, hard to predict.
Here at SonicAbuse, we’re huge fans of the album as a concept – once the songs are written do you spend a deal of time sequencing the record to get the right ebb and flow between tracks and across the whole record?
Mr V: The track order usually comes forth as time passes by and we work on the songs. It’s a very natural process for me but of course I try to do a track order that has a dynamic flow and not all the fast tracks in a row, and then all the calmer songs and so on.
Your latest work is a sequel to ‘Till Fjalls’, an album you recorded in 1998 – what made you want to return to that ground once more?
Mr V: It came out of the Blue. I was starting to write songs and they went in this kind of direction and when I listened to the demos I was starting to feel the strong bond to our past. So, I talked to the other two guys about it and they was like: just do this! When we then decided to go in that direction it was very easy for me to write the albu and come up with tons of musical ideas that was like this. So, it was just mean to be, even if I’m not a believer of the destiny.
Could you tell us a little about developing the lyrical themes? Your work (in translation at least) seems to be darkly poetic – is it all inspired by nature and earth or is there literature that informs your work too?
Mr V: The lyrics revolve around the stuff that Vintersorg mostly evolve around. The connection between Man and Nature. This album is more towards the Nature in the surroundings and not in that broad sense that we’ve taken it on some albums, when we went into the more Deep existential matters of Man in the Universe type of thing.
The album is a double record – when engaging in making a double, there’s even more of a challenge to maintain the experience for the listener – how did you approach sequencing and constructing the album?
Mr V: It was an easy task. The songs on the Ep is old tracks that I wrote before Vintersorg was Vintersorg. I just found those songs on an old tape and I was just inspired to try to re-record some of them just for fun. Then they turned out very nice and I presented the songs to the other guys and they were all fired up about it. So, we decided to have it as a separate Ep included on the album. It was the right time I guess as we did a return to our past in a way, so it was just natural to have it incorporated this time
Aside from Vintersorg, you also work with a number of other bands, do you ever find that your experiences in one cross into another, or are you able to compartmentalise your musicality?
Mr V:I think all experiences are something that comes to use when composing but also just as being a human being in the ordinary daily life. Even if I compose music to several bands I don’t think that they sound the same as I try to get into the right atmosphere and then just follow my heart.
It’s rare to hear a band singing entirely in their native tongue, was it important to you to capture the poetry of your lyrics to sing in Swedish rather than English? I can imagine that something can be lost in translation when singing in a second language?
Mr V: On the old days I guess nearly everyone in my country wrote lyrics in English but I had this idea that the lyrics should be like poems. I put a lot of time and energy in writing the lyrics and also do research to enlight myself about certain topics. Again it came just very natural to write in my native tongue, I didn’t really have an option as that vision was speaking so clearly to me. Even if people outside my country don’t really understand the lyrics I think that the music and the vocals can lead you to the topics and the words.
With such a lengthy career, are the changes you have observed in the music industry positive or negative for artists such as yourself? Has technology made it easier for you to produce music and reach your audience?
Mr V: I’ve recorded all my albums with computers. Back in my childhood it was old porta-studio-tape recordings. The computer oriented recording process let me record when I have the time. I can just start form the same place the next recording session, that was so hard when recording on tapes.
What’s next for Vintersorg?
Mr V: Just continuing to write and record albums and we’re about to start the recording process for the next album already.
Any final words?
Many thanks for your time.